Sarah “Sallie” Whitaker Jenkins by Bruce Whitaker

L Mariam Whitaker Garren (1830-1891) and her aunt, Sarah Whitaker Jenkins (1801-1896)

Sarah Whitaker was born in Fairview on June 13, 1801. She was the fourth child of William Whitaker Sr. (1772-1860) and Mary Canady Whitaker (1772-1848). Sallie, as she was called, was raised on her father’s 1460-acre farm on Old Fort Road at the foot of Jenkins Hill. Jenkins Hill going east on Old Fort Road is the hill you climb just before you reach the turn off for Flat Top Mountain Road and Blue Ridge Development Road. Her father William first built a small one-room house on the south side of Old Fort Road where the Ora “Sis” Wright house is now located. Sarah was most likely born in this small cabin. When Sarah was a small child her father built the larger house across the road that stood until around 1920.

In 1816 someone bought the gap of the mountain where Ridgecrest is now located and put up a toll station. Everyone was charged to toll to pass through the gap of the mountain. Needless to say this was not very popular with the residents of the Swannanoa Valley. They were determined to find a way to Old Fort and Marion, etc., without paying a fee. A group of men got together to make a road to Old Fort that avoided the toll gate. They came out Hickory Nut Gap Road (now Charlotte Highway 74A) and passed Mine Hole Gap to a point where the land leveled out toward the east. They then cleared a new road that led to Old Fort. The road more or less followed the present Old Fort Road until it reached highway 9, followed highway 9 for a mile or two and then cut down Crooked Creek into what is now McDowall County to Old Fort. This avoided the toll gate at Ridgecrest.

One of the men who helped lay off the road was Robert Patton’s new son-in-law David Crockett. Crockett, who was a widower, married Patton’s daughter Elizabeth Patton, whose husband had died in the Creek War.

Davy Crockett maintained a cabin in Swannanoa until shortly before his death. Aunt Sallie was fifteen years old when the road was built. Crockett was not in any way famous at that time. He stopped at William Whitaker’s house and asked for water and Sallie’s father invited Crockett to stay for supper and spend the night. Davy Crockett had lived with John Cannady as a young man, working for Cannady to pay off a debt his father owed to the old Quaker. John Cannady (Crockett spelled his name Kennedy in his autobiography) was a relative, most likely an uncle, of Sallie’s mother Mary. Crockett in all likelihood knew this. Sallie helped her mother prepare the meal for Crockett. Several years later Davy Crockett was elected to Congress from Tennessee and became famous.

Sarah Whitaker married Thomas Henry Jenkins on November 19, 1832. Sarah was 31 years old; her husband was 20. Thomas Henry Jenkins was born in Fairview April 2, 1812. He is believed to have been the brother of Josiah Jenkins (1807-1842) who married Aunt Sallie’s sister Martha Whitaker (1807-1900).

Sallie’s third child William died February 27, 1838 at the age of six months. Less than five months later Sallie’s husband Thomas Henry Jenkins died, on July 12, 1838. He was 26 years old. Thomas and Sallie had only been married a little over five and a half years. Sallie Whitaker Jenkins was left a widow with two small children and two months pregnant with a son.

Sarah Jenkins moved in with her elderly parents William and Mary Whitaker and helped care for them in their old age. Around that time a free young black boy named Button was listed on the 1840 census as living in the home of Sallie’s father William Whitaker. Where he came from no one remembers. He might have belonged to the family of Sallie’s husband and been freed after Thomas Jenkins’ death, or he could have been an orphan. William and Mary Whitaker had both come from Quaker families and did not believe in slavery. William Whitaker left Button an ax, hoe and mattock in his will.

Mary Canady Whitaker died ten years after Sallie’s husband on July 17, 1848. William Whitaker Sr. died February 21, 1860, aged 88. He had changed his will six years before his death and left his house and forty acres of land to his daughter Sarah Jenkins for taking care of him in his old age.

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Sallie Jenkins was a Baptist most of her life. In the early 1870’s trouble broke out at Cane Creek (now Fairview) Baptist Church as an aftermath of the Civil War. The great majority of people who owned slaves belonged to the Methodist Church. A few slaveowner families were Baptists, probably around five percent. They were mostly Merrills and Ashworths. Even though they were a small minority of the church, they provided 80 or 90 percent of the church’s money. Since they financed the church they believed they should run things. The 80 or 90 percent who did not have slaves but made up the vast majority of the membership thought they should run things.

Asheville was the only strong pro-slavery pro-Confederate stronghold in the mountains. The rural areas hated the north but were only lukewarm at best to the Confederacy and didn’t care too much for North Carolina. They just hated the government and came to the mountains to get away from it. In northeastern North Carolina white Democrats had problems regaining control because of the large black population; many counties were predominantly black or close to it. But in western North Carolina there were few blacks. They posed no problem but the rural whites had not been very loyal Democrats since the much hated Andrew Jackson; these rural areas had had a third of their young men killed or wounded in the Civil War. It was looked upon as a Democrat- Zebulon Vance War. Both men were worshiped in Asheville and most of North Carolina, but not in rural Western NC.

Maintaining control outside of Asheville proved a problem. Vance’s Ku Klux Klan was used more against whites than blacks in the mountains, and this problem spread in to the churches as well. Just at the peak of the problems in Cane Creek Baptist Church, Aunt Sallie’s brother James Whitaker came home from Utah to pick up his family’s records his baby brother Henry Whitaker (1811-1883) had been gathering for him with the help of Aunt Sallie and her son Henry Jenkins.

James Whitaker (1805-1892) was a Mormon Bishop. He was born and raised in Fairview and what Fairview residents that were not relatives of his, knew him. James saw the opportunity at hand and stayed in Fairview for two years doing missionary work. Aunt Sallie and most of her sisters and brothers not only became Mormons but so did almost the majority of Fairview. Over the next 15 years the Mormon faith began spreading out of Fairview to other parts of Buncombe County, McDowall County and other areas of the mountains.

North Carolina’s political machine had regained solid control of the state but could not understand what the heck had happened in Fairview. In the late 1880’s the machine had enough: The Mormons either had to go back to their old faith or move to Utah. It may not have been legal, but whoever heard of a political machine obeying the law? A good many people in Fairview moved to Utah and Idaho. Most stayed here and went back to their old faith, others didn’t go back to church at all, and some like Sallie Jenkins just stayed at home and practiced their faith in secret.

Sarah “Sallie” Whitaker Jenkins died July 22, 1896 at the ripe old age of 95. Her mind stayed sharp. She had to use a cane but was still able to cook and look after herself.

Sallie Jenkins had four children:

Columbus M. Jenkins was born in Fairview February 24, 1834. He died August 7, 1861 after a long, painful and lingering illness. He never married and was buried in Cane Creek Cemetery.

Mary Manerva Jenkins was born in Fairview June 27, 1835. She married Rev. Peter Owen (1793-1859) who was 42 years older than she. He is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery. She married a second time to John Marcus Trantham (August 7, 1844–February 7, 1916). He was the son of Jeptha and Mary Wright Trantham. John left Manerva and moved to Westminster, SC. Manerva Jenkins Trantham died August 8, 1912. She is buried in Tweeds Chapel Cemetery in Fairview.

William Lafayette Jenkins was born in Fairview July 29, 1837 and died February 27, 1838. He is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery.

Henry Jenkins was born in Fairview February 16, 1839. He married his first cousin Harriett Amanda “Mandie” Whitaker (November 8, 1836-March 16, 1922). She was the daughter of William Whitaker Sr. and Rutha Williams. Henry died September 18, 1919. Both are buried in Cane Creek Cemetery.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. Contact Mr. Whitaker by phone at 828 628-1089 or email [email protected]